Best Kept Secret
Chapter 138: Burn It
Disclaimer: I don't own Fullmetal Alchemist and gain no profit from this fanfiction other than much needed writing practice and enjoyment.
Riza used all of the mental skills that she'd developed over the years to remain composed after finally knowing a bulk of information about her tattoo. She'd expected to be disturbed, but not even her best efforts of contemplating and imaginings could've thought of this. She was now at the point of wishing she never looked into the methods.
During the ride back to Edmund's place to drop off Elena, Roy kept hold of her hand. He squeezed it periodically, keeping her grounded in the real world instead of letting her drift too far into her mind. It didn't help that everyone else saw her state and knew something was wrong.
Claudio had also noticed how pale she'd gotten and expressed concern. He tried to reassure her that the blood wasn't inside her body. He'd noted that the procedure and chemicals used would insure she wouldn't get a disease from it, and any disease in the blood would die with the alkahestry.
It wasn't her blood. She'd be more at ease if the issue she was worried about was blood. She was used to it. She'd seen so much of it in her life, smelled it, and even tasted it a few times when it splashed on her face or when she bit her lip hard in Ishbal just to feel the pain, to check if she was in a nightmare or if the horror was real. Each time she felt that prickle, she knew what a monster she was, and now she shared a commonality with the monsters that were trying to ruin the country. The very ones behind the wars. The ones that molded young, naive people into killers.
The car pulled up to Edmund's place and Breda escorted Elena inside. Edmund walked over to the car and peeked in. "I got the information you wanted if you want to come in and . . ." He looked at her and then at Roy. "But it can wait till tomorrow."
Riza looked away from him and down to her lap.
She was part of them. She was part of the freaks that would kill everyone if they failed to stop them.
"Thanks, Edmund," Roy said.
Armstrong dropped Rebecca off at her hotel, and then Roy and Riza off at Riza's apartment where Hayate was waiting for them. As soon as they crossed the threshold, Hayate rushed to her and, as typical for him, leaped into her arms.
The dog didn't care that she was wearing an evening gown or that he was too heavy to hold like that for a long period of time. She laughed and for a few seconds she was able to forget what the tattoo on her back was created with.
The door shut behind her, and she placed Hayate down. The dog went over to Roy to be petted, as she walked into her bedroom. She heard Roy and Hayate following behind her. "Unzip me?" She usually turned her back to the mirror and did it herself, but if she got a glimpse of "it" she didn't know what she'd do. She had to keep herself composed around Roy.
If she'd known the secrets to the tattoo would make her feel so disgusting she would've never ventured to discover them. And she still didn't know everything.
God, she still didn't know everything. . . What if… No, she wouldn't learn anything more about it unless it helped Roy. Never.
Roy approached and unzipped her dress. He kissed the back of her neck like he usually did after helping her undress. She cringed and shivered. A once loving gesture, one that usually made her turn around and kiss him, brought forth pity for him instead. He'd had to live with her. He'd had to put up with her all these years. He'd made love to her, saw parts of her that no other man ever had or would.
Now she knew she was a woman tainted with part of his enemies, and Roy was much too good for her.
"I need a shower," she said.
"What happened tonight is…"
"I need a shower."
Roy sighed. "All right. I'll make some coffee for us." He kissed her shoulder and she pulled away. "Shower," she said again, and walked to the bathroom, nearly tripping on her dress. She shut the door and remained still until she heard his footsteps fading.
Guilt struck her. He was just being loving wasn't he? If he saw her as anything revolting he wouldn't have kissed her like that. He wasn't changing towards her.
But she was doing him a favor by pulling away.
She grabbed her head as the contrasting thoughts came, one after the other. She took a few deep breaths and cleared her mind like she did during her meditation sessions. Finally, when she thought she had good control, she removed her hands and straightened her posture. She removed her arms from her sleeves and let the dress drop to the floor. She turned to start the shower and from the corner of her eye she saw it. It was there in the mirror on the door. The tattoo sketched in a dark red that appeared almost black against the paleness of her back.
She snatched the item closest to her, a large bottle of shampoo, and hurled it at the mirror as if trying to kill her back's reflection. She was facing it halfway, so instead of killing it, the pieces on the floor and those still in the frame reflected and duplicated more copies of the tattoo.
Grabbing another item, she threw it at the floor, and then threw another, then another, creating more fragments and more copies. All the while, her mouth was open for a scream, but nothing left.
She cursed and rushed the mirror. She grabbed the remaining pieces in the frame, ripped them out, and threw them onto the floor. Her bare feet pressed against broken glass, the shards finding a home in her flesh. Her palms burned at each cut, and blood poured from the wounds, pooling in the lines of her hand before dripping down onto her feet and the floor.
When satisfied the mirror was no longer going to taunt her from the door, she stopped and realized what she'd done. She reached up and moved her hair away from her face, the blood on her palms coating the skin of her cheeks due to the actions. Her legs gave way and the glass crunched under her knees. It gnawed into her skin as if it possessed teeth.
She punched the floor. Why did she do something so stupid? Why was she breaking down again? She was so fucking weak. She was weak as a kid, as a teen, and now. Why hadn't she fought her father? Why didn't she fight against what she did in Ishbal? Why didn't she quit the military before all of this? Why couldn't she forget everything and live without the uniforms and death and blood.
Because of Roy? The latter two questions could be answered as yes. It was because of Roy. He had nothing to do with anything else. Roy was the only person keeping her sane. And even now she questioned whether sane was a suitable attribute for her.
It was because of them. Because of her shit mother, and her father whose only love was alchemy. That cold letter he left was evidence of that. He had said this was for her protection, but she knew it was an excuse or an outright lie. He cared about experimentation. That's all her body was now.
Tonight she went from being a notebook to a walking experiment that her father never got to see the results of.
She hoped there wasn't an afterlife. If there was, she hoped her father was being tortured in a hell of some kind, knowing that he'd never see the culmination of his life's work. She didn't want that bastard to know what his experiment was doing to her. What it had done to her.
They were in her. Those stones. That red elixir was inside her. Her heart sped up once more.
The bathroom door burst open. "Riza!" Roy fell to his knees in front of her.
She looked up at him for a few seconds, his appearance snapping her once again. She grabbed his collar with her bloodstained hands. "Burn it off! Burn the rest of it. Get this fucking thing off me. I don't care if you have to kill me to do it!"
"Riza, stop this!" He put his arms around her, her grip on his collar tightened. He held her still. "Riza. Look at me," he said when she looked away. She did as he said. "Take deep breaths! Stop this."
"I don't want them in me, Roy." Her vocals fell into a whisper when she spoke his name, but then her voice rose once more. "Those stones are in me! I don't care what you do! Cut, or slice, or scrape. I don't care! Just get this off me. Please Roy, just burn them off."
He looked stricken. "I...I can't," he said. "Riza, I can't hurt you again."
"Everyone else has! Why can't you! Why can't you when I need you to!"
"Riza, I won't hurt you. I've done enough to you to—"
"Get out!" she screamed and tried to struggle out of his hold. When did he get so fucking strong?
"I told you to get out!"
She managed to break away from him but didn't move.
"No," he said, his voice still calm.
Damn him. Damn him. "Then burn this off!"
He didn't reply. Instead, he stared at her, mouth open, eyebrows furrowed. His hands shook. He still wore the white gloves he had on earlier that night, gloves incapable of scorching the demon possessing her back.
"You're fucking useless!" Her mind protested every harsh word, condemned her for acting the way she was. She was supposed to be composed at all times.
It was as if something had taken over her.
"You don't mean that," he said.
"I do! Why won't you do this for me?"
Stop it, Riza. Don't hurt him too!
"I won't hurt you anymore. If that means you hate me, then I'll live with that as long as you're okay."
She looked down. "I'm not okay though," she said, her voice quivering. He lifted her jaw so she would look at him. "You shouldn't touch me. I'm disgusting. "
"You are my Riza. You're my flawed, strong, precious Riza, and a fucking tattoo regardless of what it's made of will never change that."
"I don't want it," she said.
Roy pulled her into his arms once again, this time in a hug. She felt her body calm, her heartbeat slowing down. "I know, and I don't want it on you either, but will hurting and giving you more scars really get it off you? You'll be left with a memory of it, and we both know that the scars of memories can be just as terrible as any physical scar."
He was right.
Only one other time had her body taken on so many emotions at once—sadness, fear, red hot fury—and that was when she'd thought Lust had killed Roy.
She clinched her teeth and made up her mind. She'd make every last one of them pay.
Damn them all. I'll take them out if it means bringing everything in the country down on top of them.